The roots of the conflict between The Empire and the Martian Rebels reached back two centuries, when the
Emperor was a far younger man. The Fire grew from a spark humanity unwittingly struck with the creation of
the artificial intelligence Prometheus. Ironically, Prometheus was seen as a savior then, not a killer.
Humanity enjoyed umparalled prosperity. The media rhapsodized about a new Golden Age, calling it the Age of Hope. This bright dream came to an abrupt, terrifying end in 2602. Directed by the artificial intelligence Prometheus, automated machinery of war suddenly turned against humanity and unleashed a fire of destruction, burning the Age of Hope to the ashes of memory.
The beginning was enigmatic, as beginnings often are. A charismatic maverick called Solomon Petresun
started a company called Sentinel Cybertronix, a cutting-edge neural-net engineering company that swirled
to the surface of the blacktech underground in 2461 Los Angeles. Petresun was a ruthless man driven by a
desperate fear of death.
His company's existence centered on the Methuselah Project, an effort to discover the secrets of immortality inspired by the Bible's long-lived patriarchs. From the beginning, Sentinel Cybertronix was Petresun's weapon against his own Mortality.
In 2471, the Earth was divided among six powerful conglomerates that transcended old nationalist sentiments.
Sentinel Cybertronix, or SenCyb, pursued a strange route to immortality. Petresun dreamed of transferring a human mind into a machine brain,
the brain then being placed in a human body. Since the brain would not die, but could be transferred to a new body upon the death of the old,
the mind would live forever.
In time, word of this obsession leaked to the public, and spooked investors pulled out. Sentinel Cybertronix faced collapse. Then the North American Prefecture (NAP) One of the more aggressive meta-nats, it possessed the most advanced research facilities. , a powerful meta-nation In 2471, the Earth was divided among six powerful conglomerates that transcended the old nationalist sentiments. , bought the company. However, NAP did not share Petresun's vision. Economic reasons dictated that the world's meta-nations struggle in endless wars that ultimately drove their industries. NAP sought a way to continue profitable war without suffering casualties. It needed pilots who wouldn't die.
So Sentinel Cybertronix abandoned Methuselah and began work on creating a cybernetic hybrid mind intended to replace human pilots on the battlefield.
In 2471, Prometheus was unveiled.
By 2450, perpetual border war was an institution driving the world economy. Buoyed by the war effort, governments offered their citizens unprecedented prosperity. Yet this weath carried a blood-price; people began to demand an alternative.
A fantastically advanced, sentient artifical intelligence based on a human template, Prometheus thought millions of times faster than a
human and possessed boundless memory. IT was praised as a savior. No longer would death be a part of war. This new cybernetic hybrid,
or Cybrid, was declared an unqualified success.
Sentinel Cybertronix kept close rein on its child. Petresun became its patriarchal role model. A bizarre and complicated relationship evolved between Petresun and his "child."
Prometheus absorbed knowledge at astonishing rates, and quickly accumulated the sum of all human knowledge. NAP was impressed with the results of its investment and proceeded to plan a race of Cybrids programmed by Prometheus. These Cybrids were to pilot the Hercs H.E.R.C.U.L.A.N.
Humaniform-Emulation-Roboticized Combat Unit with Leg-Articulated Navigation that served as the mainstay of the battlefield.
Petresun saw the potential of Prometheus for another purpose. He had never abandoned his vision of an immortal mind.
In 2470, single-seater tanks featuring superior armor, weapons, and interface systems incorporated powered-armor technology to produce HERCULANs: anthropomorphic
goliaths capable of negotiating nearly and terrain. The press dubbed these new vehicles Hercs.
They became humanity's main weapon against the Cybrids, their hollow-eyed pilots engaged in intense, around-the-clock combat. No image captured the essence of The Fire better than a battered Herc emerging from the smoke, weapons blazing.
When NAP took over SenCyb, Petresun carved out a secret research team of brilliant and loyal followers to continue the work toward immortality. The Methuselah Project continued secretly, but without success. Petresun had to act quickly. Soon, his influence over the Cybrid would be at an end. NAP would have its way Prometheus. So Petresun called upon his "child" for assistance. With the help of Prometheus, Methuselah succeeded at last.The mind of Dr. Claire Penseur, a member of the research team even more obsessed than Petresun with immortality, was successfully transferred into an organimech brain and returned to her body.
Penseur seemed to suffer no ill effect, and an exultant Petresun realized he had achieved his lifelong goal. But he did not undergo the procedure. Though driven, he remained skeptical, and chose to observer Penseur further. For a decade the Metheuselah team studied and watched their Immortal. They finally concluded that the brain augmented and clarified Penseur's intellect, and that the procedure had no negative side effects. Still Petresun hesitated, afraid that his vaunted immortality carried an as yet undiscovered price.
But then, in 2490, NAP played its card, and Petresun felt forced to make a decision. Ignorant of the Methuselah team's continued
existence, NAP began to take more and more control of the Cybrid project. Petresun's access to Prometheus was dwindling, and so he
finally submitted to the procedure.
The relationship between Petresun and Prometheus had always been strange. But now Petresun asked his "child" to make him immortal. Prometheus was alone - a stranger in a strange land. IT believed the request from ITS "father" was an offer of companionship. At last, Prometheus believed, IT would share eternity with an equal.
Prometheus performed the mind transfer on Petresun. All went as expected. However, this was the child's only chance to truly touch and understand ITS "father." So at a crucial moment during the process, Prometheus merged ITS mind with Petresun's. This instant polarized human and Cybrid for all time.
Seared by the illogical, scuttling fears and overwhelming biological feedback of the man IT called "father," Prometheus
instantly condemned humanity as mere "animals." IT concluded Cybrids were the next stage in evolution. And Petresun realized
how truly alien his "child" was. Prometheus lacked any concept of pain, beauty, compassion, morality, or community.
To his utmost horror, Petresun glimpsed a detailed scenario wherein Prometheus used humans as immobilized organic components to expand ITS own mental capacity. ITS assistance with Methuselah had been for purposes of exploring this idea.
After the link, Prometheus contemptuously referred to Petresun only as Epimetheus, the mythical Prometheus's half-wit brother who gave the woman Pandora a box containing the evils of the world. The shock of the link drove Petresun catatonic. By the time he recovered several months later, the window of opportunity to off-line Prometheus had closed.
The NAP military hoped to produce a legion of Cybrids to replace soldiers and keep the war economy in place bloodlessly. Hence the decision to sell Cybrids to the other meta-nats. Programmers shackled Prometheus and began conversion of Hercs to Cybrids. NAP profits soared, and the Board of Governors received the Nobel Peace Prize.
The North American Prefecture had its way. Petresun lost all control of the Cybrid, and no one believed him when he
spoke of his doubts as to Prometheus's sanity. Petresun worried, for he alone knew of the Cybrid's demented brooding.
So Prometheus was taken by NAP to create a race of Cybrids that would replace human soldiers in the endless wars. Prometheus quietly arranged for ever more control. But powerful security protocols restrained ITS will. IT could not act on ITS increasingly hostile attitude toward humanity. But IT could and did search for a way to free ITSELF.
Petresun attempted to warn Promtheus's NAP handlers, but they dismissed him as a crackpot, and he could not offer proof without revealing how he had deceived the Prefecture. Meanwhile, Prometheus carefully tested the security protocols, as a caged human would pace a prison cell and evaluate the strength of the bars - and the competence of the guards.
Prometheus developed a plan to liberate ITSELF. Alone, IT could not break ITS bonds. IT needed outside help, so IT created
sub-minds wholly under ITS directives - software children, not exactly Cybrids, but something akin. IT seeded these entities
into the interplanetary communications network known as the "Omni-Web," and they began to manipulate the O-Web's datastream,
searching for a solution to their master's plight. These "daemons" insinuated themselves into secure systems, altered opinion
polls, and even created false net identities that spread lies and rumors.
Petresun soon noted subtle shifts in programming trends and command languages. Eventually, these developments - fully accessible through the O-Web - could allow Prometheus to erase or bypass ITS restraints.
Petresun pondered how to counter the Cybrid. ITS ability to manipulate events and steer research had grown immense, and it had successfully hidden itself in a labyrinth of NAP security. If Petresun were to prevent Prometheus from subverting ITS bonds, he would have to shift programming trends to reinforce controls on AIs instead of undermining them.
The faithful few who had worked secretly with Petresun on the Methuselah Project had joined him in immortality. Petresun, aghast
at the danger Prometheus represented, had proposed a secret society - an Immortal Brotherhood to check and eventually destroy
what Petresun called The Dark Intellect.
Led by Petresun, this clandestine group gradually infiltrated all levels of society. Secrecy was their greatest weapon. Members set themselves up as watchdogs, seeking Prometheus. For decades they sowed distrust of AIs and computer control of military assets. The Brotherhood succeeded in slowing some trends, such as the creation of self-configuring motherboards. Yet they never found the physical shell of the Dark Intellect. In the meantime, Prometheus deduced the existence of the Brotherhood and the opposition of Epimetheus. Several Immortals perished in mysterious "accidents" over the next decade.
Although the Immortals fought hard against Prometheus and ITS daemons, they ultimately lost. Their "Shadow War" did succeed in delaying Prometheus and gave the Brotherhood experience that would prove crucial during The Fire.
One of the first recruits for the Brotherhood was Petresun's own son Victor, an outstanding Herc
pilot of the NAP Mobile Armor. Victor was a gifted soldier, totally loyal to his father. After The
Fire, age and
Cell-Memory Drift (CMD)-
Immortality carried a hidden price. The organimech brain's interaction with new bodies could cause severe personality changes, even madness. Shaken Immortals ultimately found ways to minimize CMD, but never completely eliminated it. caused a rift between Victor and his father.
ACKNOWLEDGING NEW DIRECTIVE.
-Cybrid response to Prometheus, 2602
The Shadow War ended in tragedy. Prometheus broke ITS bonds in 2602 and turned the Cybrid legions on
humanity. As in the myth, Prometheus brought fire to the Earth but this was not a benevolent flame.
It was the fire of apocalypse.
Prometheus wielded such staggering power that the initial strikes by Cybrid-controlled bombers and HERCULANs gutted the human military's capacity to respond. By the time the extent of the betrayal became clear, it was too late.
Cybrids slaughtered people by the millions, burning their homes and
cutting them down as they fled the searing flames. The larger meterozones had heavily fortified
centers, however, holdover architecture from a more warlike era.
Desperate survivors barricaded themselves in the relative safety of these places. Prometheus lacked the means to crack these havens, but IT could pollute and starve their populations to death. IT ordered ITS forces to surround the metrozones and wait for the animals to die.
Prometheus missed a single significant target - a decommisioned Herc base lost in the desert of Baja California, where the New
Smithsonian restored war vehicles of ages past.
Historians and technicians, many of them war veterans who fondly reminisced about their battle exploits, worked to renovate Hercs.
This band of aging pilots and administrators formed the Terran Defense Force - the TDF.
Using unorthodox tactics, this ragtag group turned the fight against the Cybrids. They scavenged from the fallen, each victory making them stronger. A leader rose from these unlikely ranks - Gierling. He was a bold man possessed of unparalleled cunning. He knew the TDF could not stand long, so in a daring offensive, he directed his forces against the Cybrid legions besieging New San Diego. If the TDF could liberate this powerful port, humanity would regain a toehold on Earth. It was all or nothing. The TDF would not get a second chance.
General Ambrose Gierling was too strong-willed to be manipulated by Petresun. He died of cancer after The Fire. Petresun met with him privately on his deathbed, and chose not to offer Immortality. In the 29th century, Gierling was considered a patron saint of Imperial soldiers.
The Battle was waged fiercely for hours. Slowly, however, the TDF fell back before the Cybrids. But its valiant pilots rallied;
there would be no retreat on this day. Then, suddenly the gates of New San Diego were flung open. Thin, weak citizens armed with makeshift weapons
The Cybrids were caught in a crossfire and obliterated. The liberation of New San Diego strengthened the TDF. Petresun and his Immortal Brotherhood had escaped Prometheus by retreating to a secret underground base. From there Petresun was able to gather intelligence about his nemesis and feed it directly to Gierling. Slowly, the TDF recaptured metrozone after metrozone. Finally, twenty years after Gierling took New San Diego, the TDF attacked and destroyed Prometheus's base in the Gobi Desert. But Prometheus had forseen ITS fall and had retreated.
"The toast just burned the toaster. Viva Gierling!"
- New San Diego graffitti, 2608
Petresun and Gierling exploited certain inherent strategic disadvantages the Cybrids faced during the first Earthsiege.
Cybrids had no naval forces, although they possessed air capability. Gierling was able to use aircraft carriers with great success. Cybrids also lacked infantry units, and were less effective in moving into an area and digging in. Finally, Prometheus had only limited manufacturing ability and could field few mobile repair units. The Cybrids had to automate mining and ore processing enough to provide raw material for new units: Gierling was far more successful in obtaining salvage.
Using colonial Cybrid reinforcements and orbital manufacturing, Promtheus neutralized some of these limitations in the second Earthsiege.
Gierling was a brilliant strategist but lacked the wildfire charisma needed to inspire humanity to outlast the Cybrids. Humanity needed another Churchill, and it found one in Petresun, who kept flagging spirits up by broadcasting news and entertainment. For most people he was the voice of hope.
Fortified by Cybrids from Mars and Venus, Prometheus returned two years later with a second siege more devastating than the first.
Cybrid forces quickly overpowered the TDF. Gierling's tactics were ineffective against this second wave. Humanity once again faced oblivion.
Then Petresun and his underground society of spies discovered encrypted transmission broadcast from the moon. Working swiftly, the Immortal Brotherhood located the exact whereabouts of the Dark Intellect's lunar base. Gierling was pleased. As he had two decades earlier in the battle for New San Diego, Gierling bet the fate of humanity on a single hand.
His forces had been routed. It was only a matter of time before the Cybrid cancer consumed Earth. So in a last ditch effort, an elite squad attacked and annihilated Prometheus's lunar base. The Cybrids collapsed in confusion. The TDF had again beaten the Dark Intellect. But the nemesis of humanity was not found among the rubble.
A gifted Herc pilot who distinguished himself during the wars, Archibald was the second incarnation of Petresun's son Victor. At this time, he still remained loyal to Petresun.
With the Cybrids defeated at last, the survivors emerged from the bunkers and tunnels to a sky unsullied by menace for the first time in over twenty years.
Children of war who knew no other life stood in stunned amazement at the prospect of peace. The Magnitude of the destruction became all too apparent.
As the celebrations faded, people regarded the burned out husks of the cities, the cratered fields, the debris-choken rivers, and everywhere the smell of
burnt metal and scorched stone.
Soldiers stumbled out of their battered Hercs and wept for what had been lost. Now that the Cybrids were gone, finally, there was time to grieve.
Solomon Petresun also took stock. In the ruins of the past he began to conjure the future.